March 20 Letter from Mayor Lempert

March 20, 2020

Dear Princeton Community,

This has been another challenging and heartbreaking week. Your daily life has undoubtedly been upended by coronavirus, and you are likely making painful economic and personal sacrifices in the interest of public health. We know from the experience in other countries that staying at home and practicing social distancing will work. They are our best existing tools to slow the spread of this disease. “Flattening the curve” is necessary to give our first responders and medical care system the time they need to gear up to deal with the incoming volume of sick people, and to give our scientists the time, hopefully, to invent an effective treatment.

The next few weeks are going to put our patience to the test. Everyone should prepare themselves for what the experts tell us is going to happen: even though we are at home, washing our hands, keeping our distance, watching our favorite businesses close, losing our jobs, not going to school or work, and not visiting with friends, the number of cases in Princeton is going to go up. The number of cases is likely to go up exponentially during this time. This is for a number of reasons: 1) more testing kits and testing facilities are coming online. More tests will produce more confirmed cases; 2) coronavirus is extremely contagious and has been spreading in our community. Recent research from a team of scientists, including those at Princeton University, has shown that the virus can live in the air and on surfaces for hours; and 3) the virus can lay dormant for up to two weeks before making you sick. We should not expect to see any evidence of our collective sacrifice until after more than two weeks of staying at home and practicing social distancing. We must have faith that our efforts are working even when we will not immediately be seeing results.

While this pandemic is like nothing we’ve ever experienced as a country, like other challenges it has brought out the best in the Princeton community. I am especially thankful this week to our entire municipal team, our Health Department, led by Jeff Grosser; our Board of Health, led by George DiFerdinando; our first responder team, led by Chief Nicholas Sutter; the Princeton Public Library, especially the new Executive Director Jennifer Podolsky, Marketing and Communications Director Tim Quinn, and the entire team putting together the princetoncovid.org site; the front-line workers at our grocery and drug stores; and everyone who has stepped forward to help deliver food, run errands, and donate money and supplies. We are all in this together, and we will all pull through together.